Thompson v. Thompson

484 U.S. 174 (1988)


The Parental Kidnapping Act settles disputes between states for jurisdiction over the custody matters relating to children 'caught' between states. The Act imposes a duty on the States to enforce a child custody determination entered by a court of a sister State if the determination is consistent with the provisions of the Act. A decree is consistent with the Act if the State has jurisdiction of the matter under its own local law and one of the five conditions set out in 1738A(c)(2) has been met. Those conditions are; if the child’s home is or recently has been in the State, if the child has no home state and it would be in the child’s best interest for the State to assume jurisdiction if the child is present in the State and has been abandoned or abused. Once a State exercises jurisdiction consistent with the provisions of the Act, no other State may exercise concurrent jurisdiction over the custody dispute even if it would have been empowered to take jurisdiction in the first instance. In July 1978, W filed a petition in Los Angeles asking the court to dissolve her marriage with H. W sought custody of their infant son. The court initially awarded joint custody but that arrangement became infeasible when W decided to move to Louisiana to take a job. The court then ordered temporary sole custody to the moving parent with a determination to be made at a later date as to the outcome of the final decision after review of an investigator’s report. W and the boy moved to Louisiana and three months later filed a petition in that State’s courts for enforcement of the California custody decree, judgment of custody, and modification of H’s visitation privileges. Louisiana granted the petition and gave W sole custody of the boy. Two months later, the California court entered an order awarding custody to H after reviewing the investigator’s report. In August 1983, H filed a federal suit. H wanted the Louisiana decision to be held invalid and enjoined and for the California decision to be upheld. H did not attempt to enforce the California decree in the Louisiana courts before he filed his federal suit. The District Court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter and personal jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed; the Act does not create a private right of action in federal court to determine the validity of two conflicting custody decrees. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.